Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Importance of a Persistent Friend

I once read that people who fall into the ocean at night often become disoriented.  In the chaos and the panic that follows, they actually begin to swim toward the bottom of the ocean instead of to the surface.  Some do not discover their error until it is too late. 

In my work as a pastor and in Stephen Ministry, I have discovered that people in crisis sometimes exhibit behavior that is the equivalent of "swimming to the bottom".  They stop eating properly; they don't sleep regularly; they stop exercising; they cut themselves off from their family, and friends; they separate themselves from the source of their inspiration such as scripture or going to church.  They stop answering the phone.  As a result their crisis spirals downward with an ever increasing speed.

Jesus once told a parable entitled "The Persistent Friend".  The persistent friend was a person who would not stop knocking at the door of his friend no matter how long he was ignored or told to go away.

A persistent friend during a time of crisis is a friend who is willing to intrude; who will speak the truth in love; who can put their own ego and needs behind them and put their friend's needs first; who has a thick skin; whose love triumphs over any slight or insult; someone who will keep knocking though the door is shut; who will walk with you in a crisis; who will not let you forget that you are not alone.

 Such a friend is truly God's gift.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Night of the Day that Would Never End

I was 14 years old when Dad came home with some bad news.  Bud’s son had been shot in an accident.  “I don’t think they expect him to live.” said Dad.  Bud, his wife Ruby, and Bud’s son were at Duke Hospital, about an hour’s ride from Rocky Mount. 

Dad asked me to ride with him and we left around 6:00 pm.  As we rode, Dad told me about Bud and stories of their growing up together.  I never knew they were such good friends.  I could not remember their family visiting us much or us visiting them.  They never went on trips with us.  What I do remember is that Bud bought a rifle from Dad, and I wondered if that weapon was involved in this.

Arriving at Duke, we parked in the emergency room parking lot, found the waiting room, and walked in.  There in the corner of the room sat Bud and Ruby by themselves.  Bud stood up when he saw Dad and they embraced.  Bud’s wife began to cry.

“This is the day that will never end for us,” she said.  “Our circle has been broken.”  She repeated these words in a never ending stream.  “This is the day that will never end.  Our circle has been broken.” 
The doctors were letting Bud and Ruby see their son for fifteen minutes each hour.  It seems strange today that any parent would ever be denied access to their dying child, but no one present that night questioned the wisdom of this.

So, we sat in the waiting room, waiting for those fifteen minutes while Ruby chanted, “This is the day that will never end.”  Bud asked Dad if he would go with him to see his son.  He and Dad went back behind the closed door while Ruby and I sat in the waiting room.  Ruby quietly spoke to herself as I sat staring at the closed emergency room doors, scarcely comprehending what was happening.

I looked over at Ruby who was suddenly quiet and staring at me.  “You look like him, you know.”  Their son was a red-head with a heavy build and I had blond hair and was slight of build.  “You look so much like him,” she said as she put her arm around me.  She pulled me close to her and began speaking to herself again, “Our circle is broken.  Our circle is broken.  This is the day that will never end.”

Dad came out of the closed doors and walked over to Ruby.  “Ruby, you need to go back and be with Bud.”  Somehow Ruby understood the meaning of Dad’s words and tried to rise but could not find the strength.  Dad helped her to the doors and she went through them, walking slowly, as if this would slow down the inevitable.

Dad and I waited alone for what seemed an eternity before a dazed Bud and Ruby came out.  Both were crying.  I am not sure exactly what happened next.  My memory of the event skips from the waiting room to the parking lot.  I found myself walking beside Ruby.  She was telling Bud how much I looked like their son. 
 

The ride home was quiet; neither Dad nor I felt like talking.  We let the road roll before us in the headlights while the night of the day that would never end turned to dawn.


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waving at the Train

My Dad died in September of 1996.  My cousin Mike, who is a quadriplegic, drove alone from Florida to Rocky Mount, North Carolina to attend the funeral.  The day of the funeral my cousin, Mike told us a story about Dad that we did not know, nor are we to ever forget.

When Mike was a teenager, his Mother and Father let him ride the train alone from Florida to see a friend in Maryland.  As most trains did in those days from Florida, they went through Rocky Mount to arrive at their destination. 

Mike told us that he had never really felt connected to his Uncles and cousins in North Carolina.  He visited us maybe once every three or so years, but we always remained strangers to him.  But all that changed on this train ride.

Mike’s mother called my father and told him about Mike’s trip on the train.  My Dad called the train station to find out the arrival time.  He discovered that the train would not stop, but simply pass through the Rocky Mount station at 3:00 am.  So, just before that time, he went to the station and waited on the platform for Mike’s train.

Mike had asked the conductor to wake him when the train approached the Rocky Mount station so that he could look out the window and see the town where his mother had grown up.  As he looked out the window, the Rocky Mount station drew near.

“I could see someone standing on the platform in the distance and as we got closer I could see that it was your dad standing under a lamp post on the platform waving at the train.  I don’t think he saw me but I saw him- and suddenly I knew that someone in that town knew me and cared for me; cared enough for me to come out to the train station at 3:00 in the morning and wave to a train.  He didn’t even see me, but he waved anyway.”

Love can be found in the most unusual places; on a deserted train platform at 3:00 in the morning; in the wave of a person who does not even see you; in a memory on a long car ride from Florida; on the day of a funeral; in the words of a cousin you barely knew.


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com


Monday, June 3, 2013

The Very Bad Day

Sometimes things don't go our way and we think, "I am having a bad day".  But the worst day on record, as far as I am concerned, belongs to a temporary employee who worked in a department in which I used to work.

His day began better than the average day.  He was reporting to work in his new job working as a temporary; he had maneuvered his way around the Charlotte rush hour traffic in his new used car that he had purchased from the friend of a friend; and best of all, he had found the parking spot to beat all parking spots.  And this is what he was telling us about when he walked into the office.  It seems it was only a block away and he did not have to pay anything for it.  In downtown Charlotte, this seemed impossible, so we thought he was not being truthful. 

But, he really had found this parking space, next to the Sheriff's Department where such spaces are reserved for Deputy Sheriffs.  Needless to say his car drew the immediate attention of the Sheriff's Office.  The license number was quickly run through the system and a thorough check was performed of the driver and the vehicle.  They discovered that the temp was driving a stolen vehicle.  The friend of a friend from whom he had made the purchase had promised him the title, but the temp had not yet received it. 

The zealous Sheriff's Deputies spotted a briefcase lying in the backseat of the stolen vehicle and they immediately began treating the car as a bomb.  Now, to understand the mindset of the deputies, you have to realize that this event that I am describing happened shortly after 9/11.  The deputies picked the locks to the doors of the car, grabbed the briefcase with a bomb robot and took it off to be blown up, where nothing but sandwiches and papers rained down.

Around lunch time, the hard working temp walked back to his car to retrieve his lunch from his briefcase.  Standing around his new used car were a half dozen deputies with weapons.  As he approached his car one of the deputies asked him if he was the owner.  When he acknowledged this fact, he was grabbed and slammed against the hood of the car, and told to spread his legs.  He was searched, arrested, and taken away to be booked.  He spent several hours explaining his situation and the reasons why he had parked in a reserved area.

He was finally released from custody, only to find that his car had been impounded.  He rode home on the bus.  Getting off the bus he forgot to look for oncoming traffic as he was stepping out from the front of the bus and he was struck by a car.  He suffered a broken leg.

Since he was a temporary worker he was soon replaced and we never saw him again.  But I often think of him when I am having a bad day.


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com